This is the little chicken. He was born on June 1st. As soon as he hatched from his egg his mother attacked and tried to kill him by pecking his eyes out. She had done this to two previous chicks as well, my sister discovering their tiny corpses when she opened up the chicken coop in the morning. This was very hard for her, of course. But this little chicken survived and he was peeping so loudly and so strongly in spite of his terrible injuries that it seemed like he was determined to live. My sister took him into the workshop and put him in the heated box that we used for chicks in the past. She even went out and bought another chick, a gentler breed, to keep him company and hopefully teach him how to eat and drink. Xingyu spent time with the little chicken and took pictures of him and fed him rice water and played with him in the grass. He even put soft things into his home, having noticed that the little chicken would snuggle up with them.
I hope that the little chicken felt loved in those moments.
On Wednesday the little chicken got weaker, and on Thursday he died. I don’t know if this is because he could not figure out how to eat or if he had something internally wrong with him that the mother knew and we didn’t. We’ll never know.
The little chicken has haunted me from the beginning, even before he was laid to rest. He has become a zen koan, breaking my mind. The little chicken is an adorable baby chick and yet he is also the victim of attempted murder by his own mother in his first gasping moments of life, bearing those horrible scars. Such horror and beauty in one, tiny package. Such promise and love and tragedy. This happens every day, at every scale, to every type of living creature in the world and some day the entire earth will spiral into the sun and destroy all of the little chickens and everything else. And so is this good? Or bad? It cannot be rationalized. It is the indisputable way that it is and it doesn’t care what you think about it. Life is so much suffering and so much joy and ultimately what does any of that even mean? Does it matter that we provided some comfort to the little chicken on his very short journey? What is the part that we play in this life? Are we to be stewards of some sort or are we victims? Victims that try to fit everything into our world view?